Reflections on the 100th anniversary of the laying of the cornerstone of the building where Peace Community Church meets

The cornerstone for our building was laid on January 1, 1916. We celebrated that event this week at PCC. Kristen Bredenbeck Mayer shared some thoughts during worship and other folk sent some of their reflections about the place of this building in the life of our church. This year is also the 150th anniversary of when the congregation was founded. Throughout the year we will be remembering and celebrating both of these anniversaries.

Anniversary Memories by Kristen Bredenbeck Mayer

When I think of my memories of this building I do not immediately think of the building—at least not the physical building. I certainly could. I could marvel at all the care and love people show this place—a testament to the sacredness of place. I remember people cleaning, organizing, painting, putting in new countertops, sealing the coal room roof…..and most recently cleaning out the balcony!

What I remember most, though, is not the building but what happens here. When Steve first asked the question: “What are our memories of the building?” three experiences came to mind.The first remembrance was my first visit here for Sunday Worship. Caleb was 3 years old. I can remember sitting right over there and just soaking up the music, the words, the place…. The word that comes to mind is authentic. I experienced an authentic worship where people could be themselves. You’ve heard it said how people wear masks as they go about their lives—even in churches. But what I felt on that first Sunday was that there were no masks here. I could be myself

The second memory is when we opened our church to the community right after the 9/11 attacks. I remember just looking around and seeing people from all parts of the community come together to morn, to find solace, to search for hope.. .. .. This reminds me that PCC is a gathering place for the community, where everyone is welcome—a place where people know we care about peace and justice.

The third experience happens occasionally. It happened the other week. I was sitting in church, girding myself for the week ahead—enjoying this little time apart from what is going on in my life
and I hear a siren. Our church is a sidewalk church—we sit right upon the sidewalk –we don’t have a large green lawn separating our building from the street. We can hear the police cars, the sirens, the ambulances—the sounds of life happening. When I hear an ambulance, my prayers turn to the noises outside. Every time this happens it strikes me that this is how is should be—the church is not removed from the world, from the sirens and ambulances, but amongst the world, as a witness to a better way and as a community of people who happen to gather in this sacred space seeking to make an impact by our worship, by our lives, by our actions in the world outside these walls.

From Julie Hanson Reiswig (OC ‘82)
When I imagine the “First Baptist Church” building, I think foremost of community.

Jeff rushed me to church one spring evening in 1981 to get to Family Meal in the church basement. I couldn’t understand why he was so keen on getting there in a hurry, until we arrived to find a surprise (for me) wedding shower! Church members and students had conspired to throw us a party before we married that summer. One of our gifts was a green and white flowered metal recipe box that I still cherish – remember when we used to write recipes on index cards?? As I flip through the cards now, I can see the faces of some of our church mothers: Wilma McDole, Mary Caroniti, Enid Buckland, Juanita Brown… The first card, titled “Lesson for a Bride” greets me every time I open the box. It’s a typewritten poem from Mae Chesbro:

There was a young bride
Who wanted to please
She used lots of wine
And very rare cheese;
She served rattlesnake meat
And octopus stew;
She was always searching
For something quite new.
Her spouse ate and drank
Right down to the dregs,
Then ran off with a gal
Who cooked ham and eggs!

The recipes that fill the box are like little love notes from a congregation that held us in our new relationship, and I like to think of it as a symbol of the glue that has held us together for 34 years! That and the love and care from Steve and Mary, our ADULT role models who were ten years older. Steve’s recipe contribution was for “Pretty Nutritious Oatmeal Cookies”, a handwritten card with a final instruction of “Then take some to your pastor.”

Good community-building advice!

From Julie Reuning-Scherer (OC ‘92)
So much of my experience of FBC/Peace Church had nothing to do with the building. Of course it was the EXCO Class, small group discussions, worship, prayers from the congregation, times at the Hammond house, retreats. So I will save my stories for the 150th Congregational Anniversary!

Debbie Hughes, ABCRGR pastor:
In 1866, Lucy Read Anthony bought the house at 17 Madison [in Rochester, NY] that would be the homebase for Susan B. Anthony and Mary S. Anthony, two of her daughters, for the rest of their lives. Of course, there were significant connections between the reformers of Oberlin, OH, and Rochester, NY. Congratulations on this 150th and Centennial Anniversary years!

Caite Weymann McKinney (OC ‘82)
That organ is gorgeous! Wasn’t there in my time, though…that was a dim and dingy choir lot.

Rachel Ramirez-Hammond (pastors’ daughter)
Sooo many memories in that basement!!!!

Jane Millikan (OC ‘82)
I remember doing nursery for Women’s Study Group and trying to keep Grace from falling asleep so she would nap at home. I remember the Sunday School kids giving Mary Meadows a surprise birthday party in the basement. It was my job to get her there while keeping it secret.

Carrie Broadwell Tkach (OC ‘06)
I have a wonderful picture of my bridesmaids and me getting dressed for the wedding in the church basement, surrounded by the Ark and other kid paraphernalia. The two owls on the wall looked utterly shocked by what was happening in their domain.

Anna Ernst (OC ‘10) a bit late!! Kept meaning to do this and forgetting!
PCC was a safe haven for me during college. Whenever I got too overwhelmed with homework or college romance or whatever, PCC was where I could come and just be myself and yet STILL feel encouraged in that call to bring about the good and just kingdom of God on earth. If it weren’t for Steve Hammond, I might not have applied to Lutheran Volunteer Corps and wouldn’t have begun going down the path toward ordained ministry that I am on right now. Mary Hammond’s cookie bakes and comforting walks and words of prayer nourished me as well, particularly during tough times such as when my grandfather died in the spring of 2009.

One specific happy memory I have at PCC is sleeping in Noah’s ark in the nursery during a lock-in. Linden Cady ’09 and Ethan Draeger ’09 were there too. It was folks like Al Carroll ’58 and Judy Riggle and many more who inspired me with their constant presence at weekly peace vigils and persistence in matters such as developing the Peace and Conflict Studies academic program at Oberlin.

Other happy more recent memories include coming back to Oberlin post-graduation for Heather Kirkconnell’s (OC ‘11) senior organ recital in the sanctuary, and giving a message in the same sanctuary at her joyful wedding to Jacob Farnsworth in the summer of 2014.

My family and I are forever grateful for the safe haven and inspirational, encouraging community that PCC was and is. PCC scattered I may now be, but PCC is always in my heart.

Glenn Loafmann:
Some memorable moments in no particular order.

1.) I have a picture I can’t find of a worship service downstairs, where Roger is helping Jonathan follow along in the hymnal.

2.) Personal memorable moment: I think June 24 2012 may be the best sermon I ever preached. It satisfied me the most, anyway. Thanks for letting me do that, and thanks especially to Mary Meadows for the first meeting/planning session, which got me started on a new track for approaching the preparation of the sermon (and she had a different lectionary, which gave me the text I used – the baptism of John story).

3.) Yvonne

4.) Memorable moment inside the church outside the church: the “disfellowship” meeting in Norwalk, when/where I first perceived/understood how very powerful consensus decision-making is.

This is from LeDayne Polaski on behalf of the staff and board of BPFNA-Bautista por la Paz
To The Congregation of Peace Community Church:

Dear Friends,

On behalf of the Baptist Peace Fellowship of North America and your sister peace–loving, justice-seeking congregations throughout the continent, I send you greetings as you celebrate 100 years of being rooted in one place.

I celebrate with you not just because you’ve been able to stay in one spot (though I could argue that in our rootless society, that is impressive in itself) – but because you have remained rooted in and responsive to that place even as it has grown and changed over time. That is well worth celebrating!

In my mind’s eye, I can see many people coming in those doors. I see them finding a faith they thought they had lost, finding a welcome they had never known, finding a cause worth fighting for, finding support and love through hard times, finding a place to celebrate their joys, finding a group that will be with them through their failures and their successes – finding community again and again and again. I think too of members of the community who would never describe themselves as people of faith coming in those doors and being surprised to find an unexpected group of Christians – Christians who are thinking, loving, welcoming, questioning. I think of people coming to find a little help to make it through and being touched by the loving way in which their needs were met. When I think of all those hundreds of people coming through those doors for 100 years and of all they found inside and all they took with them when they walked back out, I am in awe. I hope you are too!

May your celebration of this milestone be rich and full, brimming with a strong sense of God’s continued presence, strength, and grace. May your journey forward be blessed with a lasting sense of God’s calling through joy and challenge, hope and pain. May God be real for you all in days of triumph, days of struggle, and all the ordinary days in between. Through it all, may you serve as bearers of peace – to one another and to our aching world.

Know that we share your celebration and joy – as we will share your path forward as together we seek to follow the Prince of Peace.

Peace and Grace,

This is from Judy Riggle

Of more than 14 years, I value more than the following:

The precious gift others have made sharing their life struggles and celebrations, making it possible to support them in meaningful ways

Inspiration for finding new ways to serve God

Seeing the power of consensus in action

Observing the powerful influence Steve and Mary have had on a succession of college students

The comfort in being able to to share the struggles and celebrations of our lives and those of our dear ones

The hugs, and place to celebrate son Troy’s life after he committed suicide

The place to make new close Family

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